Jones wants to confront possible drug evidence
SAN FRANCISCO -- Tired of seeing her name linked to steroid allegations, Marion Jones issued a defiant plea for a public hearing she hopes will clear her and allow her to compete in the Athens Games.
The champion sprinter is one of the most prominent athletes who testified in a federal probe of a drug lab accused of illegally distributing steroids. She answered questions from a grand jury and the United States Anti-Doping Agency but remains under a cloud of suspicion less than two months before the games.
"USADA does not comment regarding the substance of its investigations. However, USADA is aware that Marion Jones has made public comments regarding the USADA process and USADA's requests that Ms. Jones provide information regarding her relationship with BALCO.
"For this reason only, USADA will address Ms. Jones' baseless attacks on the USADA process. First, USADA's primary objective is absolutely a search for the truth. If Ms. Jones wants the truth to come out, then we share that goal. No athlete who has not engaged in doping behavior has any reason to fear, or otherwise avoid, the USADA process. No athlete is entitled to preferred treatment or will be allowed to circumvent that process. ...
"I'm trying to make the U.S. Olympic team and this is a constant distraction,'' Jones said Wednesday. "I want this done today. I want this done yesterday. I want this done as soon as possible. ... I'm hoping to send a message to USADA that I want this done and I want my name cleared. I want to move on.''
Jones, America's best-known track star, called the news conference to express her frustration with the probe, which has already targeted several other Olympians and threatens to derail her career. Calling the agency a "kangaroo court,'' she repeated her claim that she has "never, ever used performance-enhancing drugs.''
USADA is investigating Jones for possible violations of rules banning the drugs. She met with doping officials last month to discuss the evidence, and received a letter from the agency last week asking follow-up questions.
She said she wants a public hearing to ensure a fair process and that she would like to testify.
"If they're going to try to ban an athlete, then make it public,'' she said. "That's all I'm asking for.''
The doping agency, however, said it would not provide special treatment for Jones by holding a hearing before possible arbitration.
"If Ms. Jones wants the truth to come out, then we share that goal,'' said Travis Tygart, USADA's director of legal affairs. "No athlete who has not engaged in doping behavior has any reason to fear, or otherwise avoid, the USADA process. No athlete is entitled to preferred treatment or will be allowed to circumvent that process.''
|In Jones' defense|
"USADA can run but it can't hide. This is very simple: will USADA ask the questions they have asked Marion to answer -- the very questions Marion has already answered twice -- in a public forum? Yes or no?
"Ms. Jones does not expect to go to arbitration for exoneration. To participate in arbitration, one would have to be charged. Rather than be charged, she should be exonerated now."
Under federal law, USADA's process calls for a possible doping violation to be heard by an independent panel of arbitrators. An athlete can appeal the arbitrators' ruling to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
"Ms. Jones does not expect to go to arbitration for exoneration,'' said her attorney, Joseph Burton. "To participate in arbitration one would have to be charged. Rather than be charged, she should be exonerated now.''
Jones was one of several dozen athletes who testified last fall before a grand jury that indicted four men for allegedly distributing steroids to top athletes. The defendants include Victor Conte, founder of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative and Barry Bonds' personal trainer.
Jones wants prosecutors to release her grand jury testimony so she can pass it on to USADA. She also has asked USADA for help in getting the secret testimony released.
Jones did admit receiving ZMA -- a legal nutritional supplement -- from Conte from 1999-01 in an arrangement through her training team. She stopped getting the supplement from Conte after divorcing C.J. Hunter, a former world champion shot putter who tested positive for steroids four times in 2000. She said she had no reason to believe that any substance she took had been tainted.
"At that time I took necessary steps to ensure I was doing what was right,'' said Jones, who won five medals at the 2000 Olympics and hopes for similar success in Athens. "We sought out a company we thought was reputable.''
Athletes who test positive for banned drugs are routinely barred from competition, but Conte's laboratory has presented USADA with both an opportunity and a problem.
Doping officials apparently don't have positive drug tests for most of the Olympic hopefuls linked to the scandal, but they do have other evidence that allegedly describes the use of banned drugs -- such as dosing calendars, signed checks and personal e-mail.
At least four other athletes -- including the father of Jones' son, 100-meter world record holder Tim Montgomery -- have been notified by USADA that the agency is pursuing possible drug cases that could ban them from the Olympics. Sprinter Kelli White has already accepted a ban after agency officials confronted her with their evidence.
In Jones' case, officials concede she has not tested positive -- but they also haven't cleared her.
USADA is making cases using documents subpoenaed by the Senate Commerce Committee and then turned over to the agency.
Jones wants to testify before the same committee and clear her name. The committee hasn't scheduled any hearings, and has had no contact with Jones' team, committee spokeswoman Rebecca Fisher said.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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